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Book Review: A Taste for Death, P.D. James

Book Cover from A Taste for Death by P.D. James


A sad reflection on the elements of “society” that existed in the UK even in the 1980s. For me, the killing and the killer, were a minor part of this portrait of a set of characters in a Britain that I don’t really recognise from 40 years ago. A slog to get through sometimes, I am glad I have read a P.D. James novel now, but feel it was my last in addition to being my first.


The story starts very violently with a body found in a Church by a boy and an elderly lady. Soon we are introduced to Adam Dalgleish the detective who is responsible for the case. The case revolves around 3 generations of a complex family, and their secrets. How they behave and how much the perception of others influences their behaviours. The book is a portrait of a set of characters, the victim, his family, a wider circle of people involved, and the detectives involved in the case.

Some characters do have interesting stories, but I found the pacing in the book to be quite hard work. I unfortunately can’t say I liked many (any?) of the characters as I could not identify with the decisions that they had made or how they were living their lives. The politics of the author were also a little too far away from my own, and they seemed to skewer her descriptions of some characters in a way I found to be stereotypical and occasionally offensive.

The book is well written, but it was too far away from the type of crime book I have read in the last few years to keep my attention (Harry Hole mostly)and I found myself skipping passages to get to the end of the book. One positive is that the attitudes and behaviour of some characters has given an insight into some of my relations. I have been reflecting on how their upbringing and the society reflected in the book may have shaped their attitudes and prejudices.